Sri K. Pattabhi Jois was our beloved teacher—a mentor, guide, and figurehead within the lineage of practice known as Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga. In the Indian tradition one’s primary teacher is considered the Guru, which means the teacher, sage, lineage holder. The suffix -ji is attached to a name as an indication of endearment. Pattabhi Jois’s students, therefore, called him Guruji.
Guruji was born on the full moon, July 26, 1915, in Kowshika, South India. At the age of five, as is traditional, his father, who was a priest and astrologer, initiated him into the Brahmin teachings and rituals. When Guruji was twelve he attended a lecture and demonstration by the well-known yoga teacher, T. Krishnamacharya, and was so enthralled by the teaching that he became his avid student, studying and practicing daily with him for the next few years.
When he turned fifteen Guruji ran away from home to study Sanskrit in Mysore, where he also studied closely with Krishnamacharaya, helping to codify and develop the Ashtanga Vinyasa practice while teaching yoga to the Maharaja of Mysore and others at the Jaganmohan Palace. In 1937 Guruji began teaching and eventually became a professor at the Sanskrit College in Mysore. He also was an honorary professor of yoga at the Government College of Indian Medicine in the mid-1970’s.
Three years after moving to Mysore, Guruji married a young woman, Savitramma, who was the daughter of a priest in the neighboring village of Nanjangud. Savitramma, fondly known as Ammaji, was a pillar in Pattabhi Jois’s life—supporting him in his dreams and studies, playfully correcting him when he stumbled on a line of recitation, and mothering their three children: Saraswathi, Manju, and Ramesh. Eventually they bought a home in Lakshmipuram and opened a yoga shala known as the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute. In 1973 Guruji retired from the College to devote himself full time to his private teaching.
Together Guruji and Ammaji represented the necessity of balance within life. They demonstrated the seamless integration of traditional Indian and yogic studies into the “real world” and a householder’s life. Their warm smiles and the generosity with which they welcomed all students were powerful teachings of openheartedness and the importance of simply showing up and doing the work.
Guruji Lives Here
In July 1915 one of the world’s most respected and revered yoga Gurus was born under a full moon in Kowshika, India. The teachings of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois went on to influence innumerable practices and practitioners around the world. In 2015, on what was the hundredth anniversary of his birth, we honored his legacy by producing Guruji Lives Here.
Thank you, Guruji, with infinite gratitude and humility.
It is traditional to adore the two lotus feet of the Guru, which represent the Guru’s practical and grounded engagement in the ordinary world and with other beings. That there are two feet represents the conversation back and forth between the literal solar mode of mind and the pluralistic and metaphorical point of view. The two feet represent a blending of these two perspectives, and awakens in the student the intelligence of the middle way.